From The Organic Kitchen Garden 2015 wall calendar by Ann Lovejoy — If you’re still growing old standby greens, expand your usual selection with a few newcomers. Red or green Salanova® lettuces are bred for cut-and-come-back use, so you can start trimming off a few leaves when the plants are 4–5 inches tall. Several flavorful new cool-season crops are hand bred (not genetically engineered) from classic European leafy greens. Purple Peacock broccoli, a cross between regular broccoli and kale, produces frilly foliage and tender florets that are attractively streaked with rose and purple. A similar cross between brussels sprouts and kale is called Petit Posy, which offers tender rosettes with tightly folded centers that are delicious when eaten raw, steamed, or roasted.
Where spring comes early, leafy greens of all kinds — from lettuces and mustard greens to kale and chard — can be planted in March. Refurbish empty beds by sowing early greens for quick harvest and summer greens for the warmer months. Among the tastiest cool-crop greens is a French lettuce called Merveille des Quatre Saisons (Marvel of Four Seasons), a gorgeous Bibb type with ruddy outer leaves and a bright green heart. It’s tender-crisp and utterly delicious and can often be harvested year-round when sown progressively where winters are mild.
Many Bibb-type lettuces, including Blushed Butter Oak, Emerald Oak, Victoria, Yugoslavian Red, and Tom Thumb, are reliable cool-season performers. Tom Thumb is great for small garden spaces, and it forms cute little heads that make a pretty entrée salad base. Romaine types, especially Winter Density, Red Rumple, and Forellenschluss, are also good cool-season producers.
Sow seeds 4–6 inches apart in patches or rows as soon as soil is workable. Thin overhanging leaves for salads as plants grow. Give greens a sunny spot in ordinary garden soil and feed lightly (use a 5-5-5 balanced fertilizer) once a month. Water weekly and harvest frequently to prevent greens from bolting.
With more than 20 books to her credit, award-winning author Ann Lovejoy is one of the country’s leading experts on sustainable garden design and techniques. A popular cooking and gardening columnist for numerous national and regional publications, Lovejoy is fully committed to sustainable agriculture and is active in many community projects. For more information, please visit her blog.